How To Love Someone Who Has Pancreatic Cancer

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My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer five years ago. It’s a rare and deadly form of cancer, but it also has one of the highest survival rates. The reason for this is simple: early diagnosis is key to beating this disease. So far, my husband has lived longer than expected thanks to the support of his family and friends. How can you help? Well, that depends on what kind of person your loved one is — because no two people are alike.

Be present

Being present is the most important thing you can do for your loved one. It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about the future and about other people’s problems, but these things will only make it harder for you to be there for your loved one.

The best way to support someone with pancreatic cancer is by being fully present in the moment. This means not worrying too much about anything else—whether it’s past or future events, other people’s problems, your own problems or anything else that might distract you from being fully present with this person right now.

Don’t be a hero

  • Don’t be a hero.
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself.
  • Don’t try to take over their care.
  • Don’t try to be the expert.
  • Don’t try to be the caregiver.

You are not trained in this area, and you will only hurt your loved one if you attempt too much or do something incorrectly because you don’t fully understand what they need and how they feel about it!


You might have been told to “listen,” but what does that really mean? Listening is taking in the information that someone is saying or not saying, and understanding the implications of that information. It means hearing the things they are feeling, whether or not they are able to express those feelings themselves. It’s also listening for what they aren’t feeling—because even though it may be hard for your loved one to come right out and say how much pain they’re in, you can still pick up on signs like fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Listening isn’t just about words either; there’s also an emotional component to consider here. Your loved one might not want sympathy from you when talking about their diagnosis—but if you show them empathy instead (which simply means “feeling” with someone), then your love will definitely be heard loud and clear!

Change expectations

Learning to accept the new normal of your relationship is one of the hardest parts of loving someone with pancreatic cancer. It’s important to be aware that expectations are not just about what you want, but also about what is fair, reasonable and possible.

Expectations can make or break a relationship. If your partner expects you to always be in a good mood and for everything to go perfectly well all the time, it might just end up breaking your heart! Then again, if he expects nothing from you because he believes that life is cruel and that nothing good can possibly happen ever again… well… maybe this isn’t such a great relationship either?

Give them choices

To get started, give your loved one choices.

Even if the choices are small, they can be very meaningful. For example:

  • Do you want to go to the beach or the park? (Beach) Or (Park)
  • What do you want for dinner tonight? Chicken noodle soup or French onion soup? (Chicken noodle) Or (French onion)
  • Would you like to watch a movie tonight? Jurassic Park or Toy Story 3? (Jurassic Park) Or (Toy Story 3).

Build a team of caregivers

Now that you’ve identified what you need from a caregiving team, it’s time to find the right people. This is one of the most important steps in setting up your caregiving team. Asking for help can be hard and awkward, but it has many benefits:

  • You will feel less isolated
  • You will have more energy for yourself and for loved ones who need it
  • You won’t burn out after too many hours of taking care of someone else

If you have young kids at home or if your partner works full time, having family members take turns helping out during the week can help keep things manageable. If that’s not an option (for example, because they’re all working), hiring a live-in caregiver could make life easier while making sure someone is always there to help when needed.

For other types of situations—a family member who lives far away or friends who are unable or unwilling to visit regularly—outreach through social media can be very effective in connecting with other caregivers willing to offer support through phone calls and emails.

Say what you know

Let’s start with the obvious: Saying what you know is easy. But it can also be hard, because saying what you know means telling your loved one that you love them and expressing your support in a way that feels genuine. So here are some tips for making things more comfortable:

  • Don’t make assumptions about anything related to their illness. For example, don’t assume they’re always thinking about their illness when they aren’t talking about it.
  • Try not to act like a hero or therapist—you’re just trying to do what feels right for the both of you at this moment in time!

Respect privacy

Respect their privacy. It’s easy to forget how much your presence can affect someone in a hospital or home setting. Visiting hours are often limited, and sometimes even when you think you’re being quiet, the person resting behind the door will be disturbed by your presence. If you need to talk to them, ask before entering their room. Do not take photos without asking permission first; even if they don’t say no right away, it’s important to respect their wishes on this front as well because many people feel very uncomfortable with having photos of themselves posted online while they’re undergoing treatment or recovering from surgery (especially if they’ve had reconstructive surgery following an amputation).

If possible, try not to visit during mealtime; some people enjoy eating alone and would prefer that others refrain from interrupting this time for themselves.

You can support you loved one with Pancreatic Cancer

You can support your loved one by:

  • Being present, and not a hero. You don’t need to take over, but you may want to help out with practical things like driving them to appointments or running errands. Do what you are comfortable with and always ask permission first before taking on new responsibilities.
  • Listening and asking questions that show you care about what they are going through. Let them know they can talk with you about anything at any time—from the symptoms they are experiencing right now, to how they are feeling emotionally, or what their next steps might be after receiving treatment options from the doctor.
  • Changing expectations if needed so that both of you feel more in control of the situation (for example: changing the date of an event because something else has come up). Communication is key here! Also remember that just because one person has a diagnosis doesn’t mean everyone needs to change their life around it too; sometimes it just means making small adjustments as necessary depending on how each person feels about what is happening with their loved one who has cancer


Love is the most powerful force in the world. We know this because it’s what keeps us alive and moving forward, one day at a time. When someone you care about has cancer, you want to do everything you can to show them that love — but it’s not always easy. We hope these tips will help guide you on how best to support your loved one with pancreatic cancer so they can focus on getting well without worrying about their caregiving responsibilities or household chores.